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David Adam in Bali
The Guardian,
Saturday December 15 2007

he world was poised to agree a deal to tackle global warming early today, as a last-minute compromise appeared to have saved the UN climate talks. Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate official, said countries were on the "brink of agreement" as the Bali discussions dragged on into the small hours.

The agreement, which lays the foundation for a worldwide treaty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, was expected to be finalised this morning. But green groups attacked the deal, and blamed the US for watering it down. A draft released late last night contains no firm targets or timescale for cutting emissions. Friends of the Earth called it a "suicide pact".

The agreement follows two weeks of insults, arguments and threatened boycotts and trade sanctions, as countries wrangled over who should take responsibility for cutting carbon pollution.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, flew back to the talks late last night from East Timor, to facilitate the negotiations. Earlier, campaigners and officials had celebrated in the corridors, as ministers remained locked in separate rooms to hammer out the final details.

De Boer said: "We are about to embark on something that for many years countries have been unwilling to embark on. Countries are treating this with great caution. They don't want to be led up the garden path."

The Bali agreement will trigger two years of intense negotiations over how to prevent a possible 4C rise in global temperatures this century, which would threaten the food and water supplies of billions of people and drive thousands of species to extinction. It will commit countries to agree a new deal by 2009, which would come into force in 2013. The existing global treaty on greenhouse gases, agreed in Kyoto, expires in 2012.

One of the last passages to be agreed - concerning targets for carbon reductions by rich countries - has in recent days proved the main block to consensus. Europe was forced to drop its demands for a 25% to 40% cut on 1990 levels by 2020, a proposal bitterly opposed by the US.

Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, said: "There is a genuine will to do a deal and that's why they are still in there."

Campaigners commended moves in the Bali agreement to release funds to help poor countries adapt to the consequences of global warming, and a pledge to protect forests in tropical countries.

The director of Friends of the Earth, Tony Juniper, said: "There is still plenty to play for ... far more must be done over the next two years."